With Netflix's Jessica Jones in hibernation until 2018, we're desperately looking for our female superhero fix. Enter Carol Danvers, aka Mighty Captain Marvel. You've probably heard that Brie Larson will be playing this female Marvel badass in a new film. (If you haven't, well, something to look forward to!) This will make Larson the first woman to play the lead in a Marvel movie. So, first things first: Who is Carol Danvers? To help re-introduce this longstanding hero, Marvel is launching an all-new Captain Marvel series celebrating the exploits of this human-alien hybrid. The first comic will be available on January 18, and is part of the Marvel Music Spotlight, which pairs musical talent with some of the franchise's coolest heroes. Basically, every time a new comic book is released, a related music video will accompany it. The initiative was launched to support last year's Ta Nehisi-Coates' Black Panther series, which highlighted hip hop artists. In a nice twist, the Captain Marvel spotlight will only feature female-led bands or female solo artists. You can watch the first video, featuring The Pretty Reckless (led by former Gossip Girl actress Taylor Momsen) above. We talked to Mighty Captain Marvel author Margaret Stohl, and Marvel editor Sana Amanat about the new Carol Danvers, radical female superheroes, and why women should read comics.
Let's start with the most simple question: Who is Carol Danvers, and how would you describe her to a non-comic book fan? Margaret Stohl: “I see her as the ultimate sort of modern girl power woman who’s made it through a man’s system. She’s an Air Force pilot who’s come through NASA and the [military], and has kind of made it, you know, she’s sort of made it through a boy’s world and she’s had to fight for every single thing she’s ever gotten but that’s never stopped her from fighting. It’s made her fight harder I think for people who don’t have things. She's a human alien hybrid, from an incident early in her NASA career. So she has super-human strength, can fly, can absorb energy and other attacks that are directed at her, but she’s also a really human character who has survived a lot of personal hardship in her own life. Including this past year when her love interest died in a Marvel crossover event. So she’s coming back from a very hard personal place, but she’s also on top of her game and the most powerful and popular in terms of world renowned superheroes in the Marvel universe at the moment." What drew you to the character? MS: “Oh, this is my absolute dream gig. I have three daughters; I have always worked in industries surrounded by men. I made video games for 16 years, in fact the first time I worked with Marvel was making the first Spiderman game for PlayStation 2. I’ve spent a lot of time in a sort of boy world that way, and it’s just amazing to identify with someone who also isn’t afraid to be in those rooms and has fought her way through a lot of places where people never expected her to be. But also, Carol says what she thinks, she’s a straight dealer. She knows you might not like what she’s saying, she knows you might not agree with her, but she never doesn’t say the thing and that’s sort of my goal in life — that’s our job as women. Say the thing. Go into the room and say the thing, make your voice heard, use it. Carol is just a badass about that. "But I also love working with Sana and she’s so sick of hearing me say this, but Sana is like that too. You know what I mean? Sana is sort of Marvel’s Carol Danvers. Five years ago Marvel had zero female lead titles, now they have 23."
That’s amazing. MS: “That's using your voice. I mean, I love working with people I can be proud of. She’s sitting here rolling her eyes. Whatever deal with it.” Sana Amanat: “I’ll take it, fine.”
Is there something that makes a female superhero versus a male superhero? Aside from the fact that they’re just different genders? SA: " I don’t think that really it’s about male versus female in character development. It’s really more about their origin and their stories, and what makes them unique — who they are as individuals. I think that’s really what makes a strong character, and what we like to do at Marvel is show both sides of the arrow. Show them as that super-powered being and that civilian who is trying to sort of go through the world just like the rest of us. That’s really what our readers connect with: The ordinary and the extraordinary, and how to balance that duality in everyday life. So for us, we never try to think of the characters as ‘Oh, this is a woman and so we’re going to tell a particular type of story about them.’ I think that sort of weakens it." MS: “But there is something radical just about telling a woman’s story as heroic. So, for the things that are women-specific, it’s a radical act to just treat a woman like a regular old hero sometimes, and to acknowledge those particularly female details of their life. There is one arc for Jessica Drew that she is pregnant and in maternity spandex on the cover of Spiderwoman — its nuts! Having been — not in spandex hopefully ever in my life — but in maternity clothes before, you feel like the biggest mess in the universe. So, to see that celebrated on a number one cover for Spiderwoman is crazy. So, I do think there is something sort of inherent radical in acknowledging that these bad asses are women, and I kind of love that." SA: “Just to add to that, I will say like when crafting a female superhero traditionally there’s this tendency to make this character that is strong and powerful also to be a bitch. We try to show all the different layers of a character and, yes ,they can be tough,and sometimes they can say bitchy things — like we all can. ” I was reading up on Mighty Captain Marvel before this interview and I saw a lot of like, ‘Oh she’s kind of like the female Iron Man,’ or ‘Oh she’s like the female this.’ How do you get passed being the female "something"? SA: “You have to understand Carol Danvers has existed at Marvel for the last forty years at least, almost fifty years. So she is one of the sort of quintessential Marvel heroes period, female or not. I think she’s gotten a lot more mass media exposure in the last two years, and I think the current iteration of her in the new uniform rather and the mantle of Captain Marvel has definitely elevated her. I will say so many new fans have come into Marvel comics specifically through Captain Marvel because of what she represents, because of what she looks like. I don’t think people will make comparisons with Iron Man or Captain America within the next even year or so, unless it's to say she could beat the crap out of them.” MS: “The beauty of how Captain Marvel looks, is she looks like she could kick anyone’s ass. That is a radical thing, for a girl hero to look as strong as she actually is. But Carol also has a really distinct personality — she’s really funny. That’s actually my favorite thing about her, and so she has like her own personality in a way that Tony Stark and Captain America, neither of those guys do. I think the more exposure she gets the more people will see that about her is she’s rough and tough and also freaking hilarious.”
The first instalment of the new Marvel Music Spotlight features The Pretty Reckless, which is a female-led rock band. Did you have a hand in choosing the music? MS: “It was really important to both Sana and I to have women artists, and we wanted people that were doing something sort of new and edgy, and specifically were finding their voice or using their voice and kind of embracing all the messy sides of that. I’m also a YA author so I’m pretty in tune with my readers, and also my teen and young 20s daughters who are way more dictatorial about the music that lives in our house. So I just connected to [their song, "Wild City"] and I thought it was a good pick, so it was a happy accident. We were looking for power and fearlessness.” SA: The Pretty Reckless is led by [Taylor Momsen], and she’s a female lead singer of a mostly male group so that’s pretty Captain Marvel to us.”
The goal of this initiative is to invite new fans into the Marvel universe — why do you think women should read comics? MS: “Why women shouldn’t read comics? Why shouldn’t women read anything? Why shouldn’t women do whatever they want to do, right?" SA: “It also seems like looking at pop culture today, and the films that have been out the last couple of years, you’re noticing the shift of like really strong powerful female heroes, action heroes if you will, and that’s really what we’ve been doing at Marvel for the last sixty, seventy, eighty years. We have these powerful powerful female characters that have been out there, who stand beside the other big Marvel powerhouses who happen to be male, and who have done so for so long, and that’s what makes it so great. And I think we do it in a way that doesn’t necessarily put women in a particular corner. There’s something for everyone in the type of stories that we tell. They’re just fundamentally really great places to get fantastic stories about positive and inspiring individuals and a lot of them happen to be women.” MS: “It was definitely my dream to open Mighty Captain Marvel in a girl’s poker night with all the big, girl superheroes from Marvel at once. That’s sort of one of the goals as well, to show girls who love comics there is a community here and it’s not just one. There’s a bunch of us, and we do pass the Bechdel test.”
As you know, Brie Larson will be playing Carol Danvers in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie. What would you say to those who say that no man’s going to go see a movie about a female superhero? SA: “I think that’s such an antiquated statement. I do believe that obviously once Captain Marvel comes out it will be a very different conversation, but there have been plenty of female-[led films.] Alien is a great example of female lead, and dudes are going to watch that.” MS: “On a creative level there is no resistance whatsoever, which is great and frankly not maybe what everybody knows or expects, so that’s really heartening as an indicator of the comic book industry in general. I love the idea of Brie Larson up there — she’s so Carol Danvers in a lot of her choices, she just says the thing. She directed her own film, she’s a ground breaker, and a great actress and I think Carol would be really happy with that and I’m excited about it.
What do you hope readers take away from this new comic release, and the upcoming movie? MS: “I hope there are girls who are brave enough to go out for whatever they want, whether it’s a girl thing or a boy thing, and maybe break down that whole distinction. I’m looking for girls to want use their own voices and make tough calls and to not be a sidekick. That’s how I autograph all my books, 'No sidekicks just butt kicks.'"